Sly-entific Management 9 - Activity Poisoning

I recognized the symptoms immediately. A really smart guy shut down in the face of a seemingly simple request. His charge? Just fill in his activities on this master program plan. The framework had been lovingly pre-determined by the program management office, the structure seemingly straightforward. The request, trivial. Yet after weeks of fretting and fussing, his task was still not complete. Worse, the obligation had thrown his rhythm off. He was working longer, increasingly frantic, making little headway.

"Activity poisoning," I declared. "A classic case!" Slip over here for more ...

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Sly-entific Management 8

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh



The Way A Poet Might

If I were to write this poem the way we’re trained to manage work,
I wouldn’t need a pen or paper (or an eraser, or any quirks).
I’d start with pure logistics, and organize the space
in the One Best Way to guarantee the efficiency of pace.
I’d consider all the resources I’d likely ever need,
Then contract to acquire each before I would ever dare proceed.
And I would draft a careful plan with metrics clean and square
to guide my pen and paper use, to co-opt every care.
I would also study others’ works with a coolly larcenous eye,
To find the very best of class to anonymously plagiarize.
Then I might change a word or two, and certainly tweak the title,
before publishing the result to great tumult, The New American Bible! Slip over here for more ...

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Sly-entific Management 7

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth.

Following the general strike at an arsenal following an attempt to install the Taylor System, the government funded an investigation of this method in practice. Visiting thirty five plants identified by the primary proponents of Scientific Management, the investigators produced a fascinating snapshot of a revolution in the making, one unresolved today, the patterns repeated with every emerging innovation. Ergo:

. Slip over here for more ...

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Sly-entific Management 6

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth.

In pursuing this study, the investigator and the official experts were governed throughout by two standards of judgment.

First, scientific management, in its relations to labor, must be judged, not merely by the theories and claims, either of its representatives or opponents, but mainly by what it proves to be in its actual operation. Mr. Taylor, especially, has intimated that if any principle of scientific management which he has laid down is violated, scientific management ceases to exist. Evidently, the acceptance of this dictum would lead to endless quibbling, and would prevent the drawing of significant conclusions as to the actual character and tendencies of scientific management and its effects upon labor welfare. It would be as true to say that the church and the state rest upon certain fundamental principles, and that if any of these are violated in practice, church and state cease to exist. Scientific management, in this respect, is like any other thing in the social or material world. It is what it is in fact, and not what the ideals or theories of its advocates or opponents would have it to be. Labor and society at large are not interested especially in the theory of scientific management as it exists in the mind of an individual, but in the way that it affects welfare in its application. Like all other things which affect humanity, it must, therefore, be judged by actual results and tendencies. Slip over here for more ...

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Sly-entific Management 5

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth

The General Definition of Scientific Management (according to Labor)

"Organized labor understands by the term "scientific management" certain well defined efficiency systems which have been recently devised by individuals and small groups under the leadership and in imitation of men like Frederick W Taylor, HL Gantt and Harrington Emerson, by whom this term has been preempted. Organized labor makes a clear distinction between scientific management thus defined and science in management. It does not oppose savings of waste and increase of output resulting from improved machinery and truly efficient management. It stands therefore definitely committed to science in management and its objections are directed solely against systems devised by the so called "scientific management" cult."

"Scientific management thus defined is a device employed for the purpose of increasing production and profits and tends to eliminate consideration for the character, rights and welfare of the employees. It looks upon the worker as a mere instrument of production and reduces him to a semi automatic attachment to the machine or tool. In spirit and essence it is a cunningly devised speeding up and sweating system which puts a premium upon muscle and speed rather than brains, forces individuals to become rushers and speeders, stimulates and drives the workers up to the limit of nervous and physical exhaustion and over speeds and over strains them, shows a constant tendency to increase the intensity and extent of the task, tends to displace all but the fastest workers, indicates a purpose to extract the last ounce of energy from the workers, and holds that if the task can be performed it is not too great."
Excerpted from Scientific Management and Labor by Robert Franklin Hoxie, D. Appleton and Company, New York and London, 1915 - T58H63

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